Growing Plants

A Guide on Overwatering Dogwood Tree: Symptoms and Fixes

Although dogwood trees are not exactly demanding, many gardening beginners still make grave mistakes regarding their upkeep; overwatering is one of them.

Worse, these people do not even pay attention to the glaring symptoms until everything is already beyond saving.

My guide will detail signals for overwatering dogwood trees and how to save your garden from premature death. Keep scrolling!

What Are Signs of Overwatering Dogwood Tree?

overwatering dogwood tree

An overwatered dogwood tree will suffer from root rots, color symptoms (changing into lighter green or yellow), and powdery mildew (indicated by the strange white substances on the buds).

You can also check out the soil itself: overwatering is clearly at play if the soil drips water when squeezed in your hand or has a moisture depth beyond 20 inches.

Rotting Roots

Root rots are bound to happen due to excessive watering. After all, the air flow has to be pushed out to give room for the water, which robs the soils of its nutrient processing. No roots can survive against that!

Signals of root rots are withering branches/leaves and leaf scorches – marred by the browning on the tips and edges.

Different Leaf Colors

Another clear signal of an overwatered dogwood tree is the leaf’s color changes.

In response to the heightened moisture, they might turn yellow or a lighter shade of green.

Powdery Mildews

Observe the tree closely; does it suffer from strange white substances on the buds and leaves? 

If yes, then powdery mildew is the obvious culprit – a common disease that worms its way into plants in humid, wet conditions and manifests in deformed, curling leaves.

Overhead watering and even heavy rainfalls only worsen the deadly disease spores. Thus, remember to:

  • Not let the droplets linger on the tree’s leaves
  • Water as early as possible to give the moisture enough time to dry out before nightfall.

Dropping and Drooping

Leaves that look limp and drooping indicate the tree has received too much watering.

Still, in rarer cases, limping leaves might also indicate a signal of underwatering; thus, you have to double-check other symptoms that go with it as well:

  • Overwatered leaves will turn brown/wilted and eventually drop off the tree.
  • The roots are choked due to too much soil water, failing to sustain proper ventilation.

Water Dripping Out When You Squeeze The Tree’s Soil

Physically inspect the soil around your dogwood tree to confirm whether there is too much moisture content:

  • Create a hole (small, only 1-2 inches of soil) in the ground nearby your tree
  • Dig up the soil and squeeze it in your fingers.

If water starts dripping out, you have your answer: the plant is clearly receiving more water than necessary.

Check The Soil Moisture

In case water does not drip off the squeezed soil – yet your suspicion remains – there is another way to verify the overwatering issues: check its soil moisture level.

  • Prepare a moisture probe, metal rod, or screwdriver.
  • Insert the tool into the ground (2-3 inches from your tree base). The probe will keep sinking and only stops when it touches dry soil.
  • The distance between the base and dry soil is how deep the moisture is – and it should be between 18 and 20 inches only. Any number beyond 20 inches indicates the tree is being overwatered.

Why Is Your Dogwood Tree Overwatered?

Too Frequent Watering (Obviously)

Like any plant, dogwood trees have specific water requirements that any gardener should remind themselves to comply with.

Overwatering issues will inevitably occur when the plants receive much more water than necessary.

You should also examine the dogwood’s condition closely to confirm whether a second drink would do it any good. Suppose the plant soil is dry; then additional watering does not likely cause overfeeding.

The same could not apply to soils that already look too wet; your dogwood will find itself sitting in a pool if you don’t know when to stop.

On another note, a common beginner mistake is to assume the plant is lacking water based on its wilting symptoms – when in fact, those signals might also stem from extended waterlogged conditions.

As a result, some gardeners try to feed the plant even more water (instead of reducing it), causing severe root damage beyond saving.

Without root functionality, there is no way the dogwood can take up any more nutrients and water to nurture.

Ignoring Environment Changes

Unbeknownst to some, environmental conditions also play a huge role in deciding the watering frequency for your dogwood tree. Specifically:

  • Plant soil dries faster in hot weather than in cold snaps – since the evaporation and transpiration process (whether lost water is released into the air) is sped up due to higher temperatures.
  • Risks of water loss are higher in late summer months (when the dogwood’s growth is in active mode) than in winter (dormant mode).

These are notable examples of why summer and winter watering demands for dogwood are not the same. Yet, some people apply identical watering frequency for both seasons and climate types, drowning their dogwood in excessive water.

Controlling Pests with Water

Common pests in dogwood trees are mealy bugs, dogwood borers, and scales – all of which can be swept in seconds with strong streams of hose water.

However, there is a price to pay: you might risk overwatering the plants.

Just one pest control session using water is equivalent to a single watering session – particularly if it is carried out on days not designated for plant watering.

Worse, some gardeners wipe off the pests with their hose water and STILL decide to water the plants right after that. With the water doubling in amount, no wonder their dogwood tree is literally begging for help.

How to Save A Dying Overwatered Dogwood Tree

dogwood leaves turning yellow

Appropriate Dogwood Watering

Clearly, the best way to save an overwatered dogwood tree is to fix the source of the problem (your watering methods) in the first place. Following these guides to ensure you do it right: 

  • Soak the surrounding soil immediately since the dogwoods have a very shallow root collar (only within 12 inches of the soil) that cannot tolerate dryness.
  • Apply several layers of mulch (preferably 3 or 4 inches) around the tree to retain the moisture.

If desired, you may extend the thickness to 8-10 feet from the trunk’s base, but the materials should be within a 4-inch distance from the tree trunk itself. Replenish the mulches regularly to keep the layers’ depth.

  • Use garden hoses to water the trees instead of a sprinkler.

The latter might wet the entire leaves more than necessary, giving way to moisture-driven diseases to attack the dogwood tree in fall, like gray mold, leaf scorchpowdery mildew, or  leaf spot anthracnose.

Try not to let the water drip on the foliage.

And how much water does a dogwood tree need? A rule of thumb is to only water your tree once per week to a 6-inch depth. Do not overdo it.


Although dogwoods prefer full sun to partial shades, the former might have an unwanted effect on the leaf surfaces and even lead to scorching.

In those cases, the leaves will curl into themselves to shy away from sun exposure – and that is a cue for you to get into action.

Move the dogwoods to somewhere with less direct sunlight or set up protective covers above them.

Prepare Better Soil

It would be best if the dogwoods were planted in slightly acidic soils. But what if such options are not possible for you?

No worries; mixing soil acidifier with the plant’s base is still acceptable, guaranteed proper methods.

As dogwoods are notoriously picky regarding soil, I suggest seeking professional help if necessary.

Apply Just Enough Fertilizer

Ensure the fertilizer you use is recommended for the plant and only applied in just enough amount.

Too much fertilizing (even when it is a good fertilizer product) only stunts plant growth and, worse, denies your dogwoods of their natural forms.

On another note, a 12-4-8 ratio is ideal in most cases, and nitrogen should be a bit higher than the remaining elements.

Keep Your Dogwoods Away From Insects

Just one severe insect invasion can make all your watering and fertilizing efforts go down the drain!

And unfortunately, overwatered dogwoods/ dogwoods planted in damp areas suffer from higher insect risks than ever.

Invest in high-quality fungicides/insecticides (ex: Sevin Dust) and apply them based on the package instruction. Check the entire plant every day for signals of insect damage.

Extra Tips

  • Prune and cut off the dead spots/leaves and diseased branches – but only when absolutely necessary. You do not have to prune the dogwood every 1-2 weeks.
  • Natural materials are highly recommended for dogwood mulching. Cases in point are cor, straw, leaves, and bark with holes.
  • Contrary to popular belief, dogwoods under full sun require even less watering than those in shadier areas.

How Do You Know When Your Dogwood Tree is Sufficiently Watered? 

Everyone knows overwatering is a taboo for dogwood. But how can one recognize signals of a sufficiently-watered, healthy tree? 

Consistent Growth Rate

Although the number varies slightly across specific dogwood varieties, the ideal growth rate is about one foot a year.

A number less than that indicates the tree has not been properly watered.

Vibrant Color

Regarding appearance, well-watered dogwood should display colorful and showy flowers, leaves, and stems – though again, the exact colors and vibrancy intensity depend on the specific plant type.

For instance, pink dogwood should churn out pink flower bracts during spring, followed by lush green foliage in summer and burgundy leaves throughout autumn.

Yellow-twig dogwoods, meanwhile, usually resemble the shape of a shrub with bright green and yellow stems. They produce berries in fruiting periods and white blooms in spring.

Watering Frequency

Pay more attention to the watering frequency, too. Unless the tree root system has already been established (meaning the plant can last more than seven days without water), almost every dogwood tree only survives 5-6 days since its last watering.

Plus, they will require even shorter intervals during intense periods of drought or heat. So if you have neglected your dogwood for more than 6 days, that cannot be a good signal of a sufficiently-watered tree. Fix it immediately!

No Signals of Withering

Last but not least, a dogwood receiving just enough water should not display any signal of leaf drop, discoloration, or wilting (long story short, all the overwatering indicators we have already discussed above).

Consider serious treatment plans if one of them ever shows up.

More Cultural Care Methods for Successful Dogwood Plantation

signs of overwatering dogwood tree

Note down some extra tips to optimize the dogwood’s development as best as you can: 

  • Before planting, cut off the dogwood’s damaged roots using your sharp knife, then soak the root balls in deep water for about 3 to 4 hours.

Consider planting barefoot saplings with a dibble (more commonly known as planting bar), mattock, or shovel.

  • Place a metal or wooden stake next to each of your new plants to inform everyone of their location. That way, the dogwood will encounter fewer risks of accidental injury from mowers or passersby.
  • Aside from pests, certain location rodents (like mice, rabbits, or even deer and foxes) are also a huge threat to your plant. Wire some mesh guards around the plant’s base to keep those threats under control.
  • Ensure the drain holes are big enough for the dogwood roots to spread out (the hole must be at least one foot bigger than the spread).

Plus, a well-developing root must point straight into the hole instead of adopting the “J” shape (meaning the root is bent back to point towards the hole’s top).


What Are Signals of Underwatered Dogwood? 

Aside from the water frequency (at least once a week, as I already mentioned), some other symptoms of underwatering also follow: 

  • The dogwood tree leaves curling and turning brown
  • Its canopy looks sparse; some of the leaves shrink or become undersized
  • There are odd yellow spots or scorching patterns
  • The leaves drop or change colors prematurely

Since some of the symptoms can be mistaken for signs of overwatering (the dogwood leaves turning brown, for instance), you must confirm the underwatered dogwood check at least three out of the four boxes mentioned above.

And do not forget clay soil testing: check whether the moisture is greater than 20 inches deep or squeeze the dirt to see if water drips out. A “Yes” to both scenarios means you are facing an issue of excess water, not a lack of water.

Do Dogwood Roots Grow Down or Out After Watering? 

As one of the most common understory trees, dogwood roots tend to grow out under bigger accent trees, arching over the top of the oak or big pine roots nearby.

If their roots grow down or are formed in the “J” shape, something must have gone wrong with their watering/feeding.

Are Dogwood Trees Drought Tolerant? 

Yes, they are. Dogwoods generally do not require much water  stress compared to other understory trees (only once weekly, even in their developing stages). Better yet, they can tolerate summer heat for a couple of weeks.

Still, that does not give you an excuse to neglect the dogwood water requirements. Although your beautiful tree can live without it for a while, a little water during severe droughts is still strongly appreciated.


Drowning and overwatering dogwood tree seems like the death of your gardening journey. Not necessarily so if you save the plant on time with my insightful guidelines, though!

Look out for overfeeding symptoms, check the soil quality frequently, and use the right soil surface, fertilizer, and pruning methods to keep fungal diseases at bay. Write to me if you still need advice on plant health.

Samuel Mark

Hello I am Samuel. Samuel's Garden is a garden blog where I share my experiences in garden caring and tree growth. Hope you enjoy it!

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button